“This is the kind of house we love to do,” says Mary Griffin, FAIA, of Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects. “This is the kind work we love to do—to give people a wonderful place to live in a wonderful setting.” In this case, the setting is the north Sonoma town of Cloverdale, Calif., on a sloping site with 180-degree “folding views” to The Geysers on one side, rolling hillocks on another, and, of course, acres of vineyards. The Geysers are considered the largest geothermal field in the world, and their dry steam, recharged with wastewater, produces much of the electricity needed for major towns nearby. You could say sustainability consciousness permeates the air here.
When Mary’s clients, who are also her personal friends, approached her with this property, they had in mind a remodel. They didn’t relish adding to landfills just to get their wine country house. For them, the big attraction was the established working vineyard in the Alexander Valley AVA. Although well placed on the steeply sloped site, the existing house was a modest cedar log home, built from a kit, uninsulated against the extremes of the local climate, and untailored to the marvelous views.
Mary’s firm, Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects, has been known for its sensitivity to site, climate, and region, since its founding by William Turnbull, Jr., one of the principal architects of Sea Ranch. It has evolved over the years from employing passive measures to conserve energy to also incorporating state-of-the art active technologies—all in a graceful, seamless architecture that never seeks to upstage its surroundings.
Mary knew quickly that the existing house would not achieve the goals sought by her clients, one of whom had a childhood house designed by Turnbull that was tragically destroyed by fire.
Instead, Mary devised another idea: distill the house to its elements. “After studying it, we asked if we would could take the house apart and reuse the wood. And the clients, who are very interested and committed to sustainable construction, said yes. So, we had the house deconstructed and the logs were remilled into lumber. They became the inside walls and entry recesses.”
Freed from the constraints of the building itself, Mary soon learned she was tied to its original footprint. “Because of the fire turnaround, the vine plantings, and mature oaks, the new house had to keep the old footprint. Also, there was an existing swimming pool added later that we decided to keep. And we kept the shed.”
Those were the givens to deal with, but then there was the wish list to consider. The lost Turnbull house was remembered dearly for its commodious porch and indoor-outdoor lifestyle. When it came time to design this house, Mary says, “Like the Richard Williams house you featured in the last issue of the magazine, it also began with a screened porch. And the owners are big cooks. They wanted to have a really nice main kitchen, and an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. They have a friend in a wheelchair, so the front driveway is ramped, there’s a pathway to the pool, and an accessible bedroom.”
About that porch—it’s really so much more. In fact, it’s an integral part of the great room and opens up to it completely by means of a NanaWall system. “It’s really just a big, easy living area,” says Mary. Furniture on the screened porch is weather-worthy, but the aesthetic of the whole house is casual enough that it doesn’t seem like a different species of décor.
The porch serves other practical purposes that support the goals of the house. It plays an important role in ventilating the entire living space, which is not air conditioned. “There are low operable windows as well, and a clerestory that vents,” says Mary. Heating and cooling are provided by the radiant concrete floors. There’s a photovoltaic array on the south-facing roof and solar hot water panels to supply most of the home’s energy needs, including powering the heat pumps for the floor.
Two secondary bedrooms are accessed through the porch, eliminating the need for extra circulation space. A bathroom between them has a shower that either bedroom can use, and one bedroom has a dedicated full bathroom with a tub.
As open and airy as the rear elevation is, the main entry side is hunkered down and protected, sporting a living roof like a scruffy head of hair. Its wildness contrasts smartly with the restrained geometry of the COR-TEN-and-cedar façade. Those re-milled logs add considerable warmth to the steel, and a horizontal motion to balance the vertical corrugation. “The owner really likes COR-TEN,” says Mary. “This is the north entry, so we kept fenestration to a minimum and focused outward.”
This is a weekend house for now, just 1.5 hours away from the owners’ fulltime residence. But it’s close enough to “get you out of the summertime fog and into a pleasant summer atmosphere,” says Mary. “It’s an easy place to go up to for lunch on the deck.” And a glass or two of fine Alexander Valley wine, to be sure.
Maybe everyone should just stay the night.
Plans and Drawings
ARCHITECT: Mary Griffin, FAIA, Turnbull Griffin Haesloop, San Francisco, Calif.
BUILDER: Tim Kennedy, Kennedy Construction, Healdsburg, Calif.
LANDSCAPE: Daphne Edwards, Daphne Edwards Landscape Architecture, Berkeley, Calif.
PROJECT SIZE: 2,143 square feet
SITE SIZE: 7.72 acres
CONSTRUCTION COST: Withheld
PHOTOGRAPHY: Matthew Millman, Matthew Millman Photography
LIVING ROOF: American Hydrotech
WINDOWS: Blomberg Window Systems
WINDOW WALL SYSTEM: NanaWall
HVAC: Daikin air-to-water pump
WOODBURNING STOVE: Rais
DOOR HARDWARE: Baldwin
WINE REFRIGERATOR: Miele
FANS: Modern Fan Co.
OUTDOOR GRILL: Wolf
PIZZA OVEN: Mugnaini
FAUCETS/FITTINGS: Franke, Cifial
SINKS: Franke, Duravit
OUTDOOR SHOWER: Calazzo
LIGHTING: IRiS Lighting